Jul 31, 2009

One million children face threat to education: UN

The United Nations warned on Thursday that one million children could have their education interrupted in Pakistan, where conflict with the Taliban has damaged or turned schools into civilian shelters. Around 600,000 out of an estimated 2.2 million people displaced by fighting between government troops and the Taliban across the northwest have returned home, a UN spokeswoman told a news conference.“It is encouraging that some 600,000 people have returned but we are still looking at a very large number who have not,” said Stephanie Bunker. Schools used as a temporary refuge for the displaced are scheduled to re-open for the new academic year on September 1, but getting all children back into education “poses a massive challenge,” the UN warned. “According to official sources, 187 schools are destroyed, 318 schools are partially damaged — 313 of them schools for girls,” said a UN statement. “Schools being used as shelters must be repaired and equipped... while for IDP (internally displaced person) children returning to their places of origin, temporary structures... will be needed.“If not, an estimated one million children could face interruptions to their education,” the UN statement added.UN officials said that 1,167 schools out of 4,739 sheltering the displaced had already been vacated, and that the government hopes to clear out the rest within two weeks.More than 600,000 children enrolled in schools in Malakand, where the fighting has been concentrated in three districts, have missed up to one school year due to the conflict, the UN said. In the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), only 22 per cent of women and girls older than 15 are literate. Only seven percent of women and girls older than 10 are literate in the semi-autonomous tribal areas, the United Nations said.

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